Il Diario di Tinton

{2013-02-21}   T-mobile $3/day bandwidth post 200MB/day limit

T-Mobile has two really cool plans, which have finally made cellular data an option for me while in the USA: $2/day and $3/day, only for those days that the phone is actually online. Both have unlimited SMS, voice and data, but while the $2/day provides only 2G data speeds, the $3/day provides 3G/4G speeds for the first 200MB, and 2G above that. Since i come to the USA for business a few times a year, and stay a couple of weeks each time, this plan has changed my life.

At any rate, i have discovered that what they publicize does not represent the reality i have experienced: it is publicized that the first 200MB of traffic are 3G/4G and everything above that only 2G. So, a sort of a FAP. But in reality i have experienced this:

  • Checking on for the available traffic didn’t help me, as it kept showing me 0MB used. Maybe the information is not real time? Maybe it was that way because i had just upgraded from the $2 to the $3 plan? In any case, i hit the limit with that page showing i had used up 0MB. Maybe it might have been necessary to disconnect, and reconnect for the site to pick up the correct
    English: Unusual speed limit (3 MPH), located ...

    English: Unusual speed limit (3 MPH), located at the DATA bus terminal in downtown Durham, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    amount of data used. Don’t know.

  • The speed limitation (FAP) after 200MB is not 2G, but less than a third of 2G.

2G data uses EDGE technology which has a bandwidth limit of 320kbps, which usually in reality never translates to more than 25KBps (bytes, not bits). But T-Mobile allows connecting on 3G network and the data bandwidth available seems to be about 8KBps (around 64kbps). At that speed, it would take about 4-5 minutes to load the website, instead of taking less than 1.5 minutes. This makes a huge difference when working at such low speed, especcially because many servers have connection timeouts. For instance the website is so heavy, the server seems to timeout each time i try to load the page after i hit the 200MB limit.

The speed limit also occurs when disabling 3G on the phone, and connecting with 2G technology only. While i have no proof physical proof (i.e. router configurations, or other packet/frame data that indicates bandwidth limitation) that T-Mobile has a bandwidth limiter in place, i sure feel comfortable saying that it sure looks like they do: from downtown Chicago, where i get 5 bars of coverage, i can’t get more than 8KBps with lots of jitter connecting via 2G, and about the same 8KBps with almost no jitter connecting via 3G once i have hit the 200MB limit.

I have also noticed that the $2/day plan is faster than the $3/day plan once the 200MB limit has been reached, by about a factor of 2.

Conclusion: T-Mobile claims that they provide 2G (EDGE) bandwidth once the 200MB/day limit has been reached, while instead it’s more like 1G (GPRS) bandwidth.


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